SuperGeeks is a device repair and service platform that provides after-sales technical support to customers within the Lagos metropolis and suburbs. Founded in 2013 by the duo of Sam Uduma and Edmund Olotu, SuperGeeks has a focus of delivering quality customer service that is seriously lacking in the ecosystem
TechPoint spent an afternoon with Co-Founder Samuel Uduma to get some insight into the origin of, and philosophy behind, SuperGeeks.
Can you tell us a little about your background
I'm Sam Uduma, I'm under 30 - many people don't get that because of my receding hairline.
I have an engineering background; I went to University of Nottingham for about 3 years, where I majored in Electronics/Computer Engineering, and then the University of Bristol for another year, where I mastered in Telecommunications Engineering. I worked with Ericsson UK for another 4 years before I decided to come back to Nigeria. I'm married. Recently married actually, just over a year old. I have a sibling - my younger brother - and my parents are based in Abuja. They have encouraged me to go ahead with the path that I have chosen.
Ericsson UK, then the Largest telecoms services company in the world – not quite sure they still are - was a very good learning experience for me. I actually did a lot of stuff in network support so, I'm used to providing that service and support that people need.
From first degree in electronic engineering to a masters in telecoms and then a job at Ericsson, I can imagine your parents must have initially thought you were crazy to leave your good job.
My mum is my biggest influence. She's actually in the telecomms industry, she worked in the NCC for a number of years. So she encouraged me to get into this sector, she knew it was the future. She was very perceptive of the fact that I was not necessarily called to a '9-to-5'. Not that I couldn't do it - because I felt that if I applied my mind, I could do anything - but I wasn't happy in the position that I was.
So when the entrepreneurial flair started growing, she encouraged me to explore the idea. Good thing about my folks is they've never been the kind to force what it is that I choose to do. They know that I am somewhat independent in my thoughts, in my opinions. So they just support with prayers and encouraging words.
Be the smartest in the room
I must admit that I didn't immediately just rip off the bandage, you know, quit the job, without having anything to fall back on. In actuality, before SuperGeeks I started a “5-9” company while still at Ericsson, called ChargeBox Nigeria. We deploy charging systems where you can charge your phone securely. We have some of or outlets at Silverbid, The Palms and E-Centre. When I started that company, we secured a lasting relationship with Etisalat, who were quite supportive of the idea. That gave me a foothold into the Nigerian Market. Chargebox was technically my entry point. Just coming back on that basis was scary; I had never worked here in Nigeria before. My parents lived in Abuja and I was here in Lagos (this was in 2012). BBut I’ve always been up for challenges especially those with odds stacked firmly against , so I just powered through the fear.
So what inspired the idea and the name SuperGeeks?
The funny thing about the name "SuperGeeks" is it used to be my nickname in University, my partner and I decided one day to commercialise it and stuck. There’s nothing really spectacular about after-sale support services but like most, this idea originated from a series of personal experiences.
Everyone I know has, at some point required service for their treasured gadgets, myself included. As a typical geek, I have had quite a few of them, some of which I try to resolve myself. When I came back to Nigeria, what I discovered was such an unstructured, fragmented aftersales service market without much thought process to it. If you needed your device serviced, you had to go to Saka Tinubu or, if you're closer, Computer Village, where you had to find that one guy you could foster a relationship with, in the hope that at some point, he doesn't mess you up, but as you’d have guessed– they always do.
Fortunately for me, when I as in the UK, one of the summer jobs I did was with a company called PC ServiceCall and also with a company called Geek Squad. They provided after-sale support service for certain device categories. I saw how some of these things work; the process was clear and it worked like a science. And I love things that add up. So I wrote in my ideas bank- which has about 60 unexecuted ideas by the way – an idea to build and grow an after-sales and support brand that people can recognise and trust with process driven framework to ensure efficiency and quality.
Now, I happen to have a partner, as you know, so when I cam back to Lagos at first, I stayed with him for some time. We spent nights, literally from like 10 pm in the night till 3 am just bouncing off ideas. And every idea that we had was always some billion dollar spreadsheet profile. SuperGeeks was born on one of those nights.
Thankfully, some of the family around me at the time were also encouraging. I can tell you it's one of the toughest things you can ever do, in Nigeria particularly. But it was exciting to think that we could actually change a part of the ecosystem and further create a long lasting foundation for others to build on.
Why would I prefer to go to SuperGeeks to repair my device when I have Chinedu, my trusted guy at Computer Village?
Our first objective starting SuperGeeks was defragmenting the market. What that means is we don't want Muyiwa, Wale, Chidinma and 10 other people to have Akpan, Chinedu and Korede as their service providers. We want them to have a brand that potentially engages (and refines) Apkan, Chinedu and Korede. So you still get access to the technical competence but refined to give you that extra peace of mind – at least you know no matter what happens, we will always value our brand equity. That for me is value that you don’t necessarily get when you go to the market.
That for me is a value that you don't necessarily get when you go to the market.
Secondly is the service standard that we provide. I must say that in this sector, service quality is largely dependent on factors some of which are out of our control. In view of our long term focus however, we have formulated a strategy to intelligently maintain the quality of service. 70% of our repairs require parts and we don’t manufacture these parts so we are at the mercy of spare part traders which is a very uncertain place to be sometimes. Notwithstanding, we place a guarantee on all our repairs so as a customer you don’t feel the effect of the 'substandardness' of the market while we implement ways to iteratively improve the sourcing of our parts.
Finally, we want to move people from a 'break-and-fix' mentality to a more preventive mentality, using our Gadget Protection Plan, where cost of repairs are borne by us if you opted in for our plan at the point of purchase.
Not forgetting we have a corporate social initiative which we have carfeully streamlined into our business model, we call it SuperGeeks Academy – our training school for technicians. We actually brought in some engineers from Computer Village and Saka Tinubu and trained them particularly in processes and best practice.
These guys having been used to the typical market “Anyhowness” required a reverse engineering on their thought processes where they slowly but eventually start to see service as a science. It’s been tough doing this but our long term goal is to foster an ecosystem with a 1000 SuperGeeks Academy trained Enigneers running their own SuperGeek hubs within a few years. Even this thousand cannot fully meet the market demand but it’s a start. We are a massive market.
A lot of Chinese manufacturers in the market are beginning to take their after-sales support seriously. Would you say you are competing against them?
I think we are playing in the same space not necessarily competing , we are complementing their after-market. Case in point, take a trip to CalCare service centre in Ikeja and you will find pretty quickly that it can be the worst nightmare for a typical customer. I don’t blame them however as we Nigerians are super- consumers. So after-sales can be overwhelming for an orgnanisation servicing such huge sales in their first few years. The mid-tier OEMs will soon realise that brand loyalty for customers especially in Nigeria is not necessarily based on the fancy features of the device nor its look and feel; Loyalty grows on the foundation of your after-sales support framework – it’s the same reason Nigerians will rather buy Toyota than many other brands. We are becoming more intelligent in our buying so the OEM brands (chinese or not) that are going to be here for the long haul are ones who actively invest in their after-sales support structure.
It’s worth noting that as an OEM, it can be quite costly sink capital into building your after-sales support and service especially when your primary focus is making sales. That's why you find that some OEMs combine under one technical warranty provider e.g. Infinix, Tecno and iTel combining under CarlCare. Truth is, they can further enable the ecosystem by allowing 3rd party training and access to original parts thereby allowing whosoever chooses to offer the same service level to their customers.
We are brand agnostic, which means we can also support these Chinese brands and with our business objectives, this capacity is only going to grow. We do however need more collaboration with the OEMs.
Finally, do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I need to write a book on that. I think it's very subjective but it's also quite a personal journey. First of all, you should not confuse your idea for execution. I happen to have a pep project that myself and partner are undertaking called TechAdvance applabs where we encourage budding entreprenuers to come with their ideas for us to co-develop, or we generate the ideas and hire intern-CEOs to dev elop and push out to market
We have some products that are going to be launched quite soon. One of the issues we face with budding founders is a pre-meditated 'techcrunchy' context of the market. So we see this fantastic idead promoted by a very enterprising individual who obvioulsly has passion but remains so hung up on the idea in itself that he fails to see the big picture, and as such is not attractive enough for someone to support. So my advice here would be, 100% of an idea = ZERO (in Nigeria at least) so be careful not to alienate someone that can take your idea to next level for the reward of ZERO
I think budding entrepreneurs need to share and collaborate more also. I find that a lot of us feel that if we share our ideas, someone else is going to snap them up and use them. To be fair , that is sometimes the case. I cannot deny the fact that Nigeria is one of the most competitive markets where things can open overnight and change the whole landscape. But I believe that for Silicon Valley to have gotten to where it is today, for the likes of the Kenyans to be recognised for where they are (now I'm hearing Rwanda is about to overtake us), this could not happen without a healthy form of collaboration, enabling the environment of sharing information.
So my second advice is Collaborate or Die!